Throughout most of the 1920s, Charlie Reed allowed travelers to pitch tents on open land at this site. Beginning in 1928, however, that camping space was filled by the Colo Cabin Camp, which was also known by the late 1940s as the Colo Motel, the sole name used after the mid-1950s. This was an early use in Iowa of the term “motel,” a contraction of “motor hotel.” Connoting “modern,” this new word originated in California and quickly spread across the country after World War II.
The Colo Motel consisted of a main building and two smaller ones, each housing rental units arrayed under a single roof. This was the main building, containing eleven units arranged in an L-configuration--five doubles built in 1946 and six singles added in 1947. In 1964, it was converted to an apartment building after the 1962 relocation of U.S. 30 brought reduced patronage, and it remains an apartment building today.
The blue and yellow neon-lit Colo Motel sign, installed in the late 1940s, has design features characteristic of much roadside signage of that era.